Understanding the Open Container Laws in Texas

In the state of Texas, you’ll be fined $500 to $2,000 if you carry an open container of alcohol in your car’s passenger area.
Written by Stephanie Southmayd
Edited by Jessica Barrett
  • Under Texas’s open container law, you can be fined up to $500 for having an opened container of alcohol in your vehicle’s passenger area.
  • You’ll be fined even if the alcohol belongs to a passenger and you’re parked and/or sober. 
  • If you’re convicted of a driving-while-intoxicated (DWI) offense along with the open container charge, you’ll be fined up to $2,000 and could serve jail time.
  • Exceptions to the law include buses, limos, cabs, and motor homes.
  • A citation for possession of an open container may increase your
    Texas insurance rates
    at your next renewal.

It’s illegal to carry an open container of alcohol in a car’s passenger area

According to
Texas’s driving laws
, you’re violating the open container law if: 
  • You have an open or unsealed container (e.g., a can, bottle, or other receptacle) containing any amount of alcohol in your car
  • The container is in the passenger area of the car
  • You are on a public road, highway, street, or interstate and the vehicle is in motion, stopped, or parked
  • You know about the container
Put simply: Having any kind of container of alcohol in your car is illegal in Texas unless it’s sealed or stored in the trunk, a locked glove compartment, or behind the backseat. It doesn’t matter whether the container belongs to the driver or a passenger, and it doesn’t matter if you’re sober. 

Exceptions to Texas’s open container law

Texas’s open container law includes a few exceptions. Passengers may have an open alcohol container in the following vehicles: 
  • Buses
  • Taxis
  • Limos
  • Motor homes, recreational vehicles, and camper vans
In a vehicle with no trunk, an open container of alcohol can be stashed behind the last upright seat.

What counts as an open container?

When you imagine an “open container,” you might think about a cup with no lid or an open can of beer—but that’s not the full picture. 
Here’s how Texas law defines an open container: Any vessel ​that “​contains any amount of alcoholic beverage and that is open, that has been opened, that has a broken seal, or the contents of which are partially removed.” 
That fully-sealed bottle of cooking wine you got at H-E-B is probably fine—especially if you put it in the trunk or behind the backseat. But it’s illegal to have a takeout mimosa, thermos of bourbon, or re-corked bottle of cabernet in the passenger area of a motor vehicle. 

You’ll be fined $500 to $2,000 if you break the Texas open container laws

The consequences of having an open container in your vehicle may vary depending on the circumstances:
Possession of an open container
Class C misdemeanor
Fine up to $500
Open container + intoxicated at the time of offense or refused to take a breathalyzer
License suspension
Open container +
Class B misdemeanor
Fine of up to $2,000
Up to 180 days in jail
Ignition interlock device
Remember: With or without a DWI charge, an open container ticket creates a criminal record that could raise your
car insurance rates
considerably for a decade or more.


The state law regarding open containers (
section 49.031
of the Texas Penal Code, “Possession of Alcoholic Beverage in a Motor Vehicle”) was passed on September 1, 2001.
Texas declared drinking and driving illegal in 1984, joining almost every other state in the country in passing the law. 
Across the US, open container laws have significantly reduced drinking and driving rates. In turn, this has cut down DWI or DUI-related car accidents, serious injuries, and fatalities.
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